Two brothers fighting fascism (4)

Old Nottinghamian, Robert Renwick Jackson was killed on Saturday, February 13th 1943. He was the pilot of a Boston III Intruder with the serial number AL766 and the squadron letters TH-unknown. Whatever that unknown letter was, “A-Able”, “Z-Zebra”, whatever, on a Boston it was never painted on the fuselage with the other two letters, either side of the roundel. Instead it was placed, in matt red, under the pilot’s side window, replacing those sexy ladies on the noses of B-17s:

And here is the more normal positioning of squadron letters, on a Supermarine Spitfire :

Robert took off from Bradwell at 23:57 hours on an Evening Intruder Sortie to Nantes, a large port on the River Loire in western France, 35 miles inland from St Nazaire. His mission was to drop propaganda leaflets for the occupied French. This activity was called “Nickeling” and, in the rich slang of the RAF, the men who did it were called “bumphfleteers”. Here’s Bradwell nowadays:

The last definite news about Robert’s aircraft came as it approached the French coast but it then crashed a few miles inland. There is much doubt about the exact reason for this, but, if we discount pilot error, we are pretty well left with just anti-aircraft fire or a night fighter.

Perhaps he had inadvertently flown over a German flak battery. Whenever the RAF reached the French coast they were never far from German guns. And the crews of these guns were always very good. They had plenty of practice. They were quite capable of shooting down a Boston:

One hugely relevant detail is that a straight line from Essex to Nantes passes more or less directly over some of the most heavily fortified sections of the Atlantic Wall. They may even have passed too close to the huge German troop concentration at Le Havre, a garrison of 14,000 men with an excellent concentration of 88mm guns protecting them from air attack. Many reports over the years have said that Robert’s aircraft crashed near Mantes, which, unless it is a misspelling for Nantes, must mean Mantes-la-Jolie, near Paris, around 30 miles from the city centre. This scenario can be pretty well rejected because Robert was initially buried at Saint-Riquier-ès-Plains, only 22 miles from Dieppe and 22 miles from Etretat, famous for its sea cliffs. Robert was then reburied on October 1st 1947 in a larger cemetery at Grandcourt, some 20 miles east of Dieppe. Clearly, everything is connected with Dieppe and the Channel coast rather than Mantes-la-Jolie and the city of Paris. I cannot agree either with those who say that he was killed not near Mantes but near Nantes, the original destination of his mission. Why would the Germans transport his remains some 250 miles for burial at Saint-Riquier-ès-Plains? That doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.

Anyway, here is Grandcourt Cemetery:

(Picture of the black Boston borrowed from wp.snc.ru.)

 

6 Comments

Filed under Aviation, France, History, military, The High School

6 responses to “Two brothers fighting fascism (4)

  1. Interesting that the Germans had the good manners to bury a fallen foe. I continue to have great respect for Germans (but not the Nazis). Important I think to distinguish Germans from Fascists.

    For some reason we voted to leave the EU but we are not all Brexiteers!

    • There is at least one example I know of where the Germans, having murdered a member of a Bomber Command aircrew, failed to bury him completely, but overall the Germans had respect for most of their Western foes (Commandos were automatically killed). This respect didn’t extend to their eastern foes, notably the Poles and the Russians, the latter being used as slave labour until their deaths.
      The idea of the difference between Germans and Fascists / Nazis is a very complex one that the Germans of the present day have been, to their credit, willing to embrace. I suspect that the issue has a great deal more to do with human beings in general and what all of them are capable of, given the circumstances.
      As regards Brexit, I voted to leave the EC because I wanted England to preserve the democracy that we have fought for since at least 1215. The EC and its unelected politicians are not the way I want to be governed. I also did not like the past histories of a number of European countries, all of whom have dabbled with dictatorship as their way forward…Italy, Greece, Portugal, Germany, for example. We are seeing further disgraceful examples nowadays with Poland and Hungary.

  2. GP

    They say, all is fair in love and war, but for a family losing one member – it is not forgotten. I appreciate the fact that they were at least buried.

    • Yes, indeed. There are certain standards, even in war, which should always be adhered to, and treating a fallen foe with chivalry and even kindness, is certainly one of them.

  3. I think airmen were on the whole treated better than the many others that were captured / killed. The Luftwaffe controlled camps for example being marginally better than others. It will be interesting to see where he did crash.

    • You are quite right. The Luftwaffe did treat its prisoners decently, as fellow airmen, and on at least one occasion Luftwaffe officers went into an SS concentration camp and demanded the return of RAF prisoners hours before their execution.
      As for the crash, it was surely near to the flak battery that shot them down. I just can’t imagine them transporting enemy dead hundreds of miles. I suspect that at some stage in the paper train Nantes just turned into Mantes, and nobody had reason to notice.

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